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Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Dec;74(6):516-24.

Use of nicotine patches in breast-feeding mothers: transfer of nicotine and cotinine into human milk.

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Pharmacology Unit, M510, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Western Australia, Crawley 6009, Western Australia, Australia.



Our objective was to assess the extent of exposure to nicotine and cotinine in breast-fed infants during maternal smoking and later during maternal use of the nicotine transdermal patch to achieve smoking cessation.


Fifteen lactating women (mean age, 32 years; mean weight, 72 kg) who were smokers (mean of 17 cigarettes per day) participated in a trial of the nicotine patch to assist in smoking cessation. Serial milk samples were collected from the women over sequential 24-hour periods when they were smoking and when they were stabilized on the 21-mg/d, 14-mg/d, and 7-mg/d nicotine patches. Nicotine and cotinine in milk were quantified by HPLC, and infant dose was calculated. Plasma concentrations of nicotine in the breast-fed infants were assessed, and the infants were also clinically assessed.


Nicotine and cotinine concentrations in milk were not significantly different between smoking (mean of 17 cigarettes per day) and the 21-mg/d patch, but concentrations were significantly lower (P <.05) when patients were using the 14-mg/d and 7-mg/d patches than when smoking. There was also a downward trend in absolute infant dose (nicotine equivalents) from smoking or the 21-mg patch through to the 14-mg and 7-mg patches (P <.05 at both 14-mg and 7-mg doses, compared with smoking). Milk intake (shown as median and 25th to 75th percentile) by the breast-fed infants was similar while their mothers were smoking (585 mL/d [507-755 mL/d]) and subsequently when their mothers were using the 21-mg (717 mL/d [504-776 mL/d]), 14-mg (731 mL/d [535-864 mL/d]), and 7-mg (619 mL/d [520-706 mL/d]) patches (chi(2) = 3.19, P =.364).


We conclude that the absolute infant dose of nicotine and its metabolite cotinine decreases by about 70% from when subjects were smoking or using the 21-mg patch to when they were using the 7-mg patch. In addition, use of the nicotine patch had no significant influence on the milk intake by the breast-fed infant. Undertaking maternal smoking cessation with the nicotine patch is, therefore, a safer option than continued smoking.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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